Jays' Horwitz shows off bat, speed in AFL

November 4th, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Fall League annually boasts the premier prospect talent in the game. Through play Wednesday afternoon, with myriad elite up-and-comers on the circuit, just one qualified player boasts a batting average north of .400: Spencer Horwitz.

“It’s a blessing to be here, the AFL is great competition,” Horwitz said after his two-hit, two-steal performance propelled Mesa to a 5-4 win over Scottsdale.

The Toronto first-base prospect has 20 hits through 12 AFL games and stands second with a .508 on-base percentage, and he batted .294 over 109 Minor League games this summer. Don't try to tell Horwitz -- who's struck out just 98 times in 653 pro at-bats -- that whiffs are an acceptable tradeoff for the pursuit of a little more power.

“I’m a big competitor in the box. I hate striking out more than anything,” he said. “I like to put balls in play, make things happen and do damage when the pitchers make mistakes. If I’m putting balls in play four to five times a game, I’m helping my team win, for sure. I know that.”

The left-handed hitter walked (70 times) more than he struck out (68) in 2021, and his .401 OBP over 105 games for Vancouver stood second in the High-A West.

While he totaled 12 home runs this year, nine of those came during his final 32 games (including two in his four-game stint with Double-A New Hampshire). Over that stretch, he produced a striking .414/.480/.734 slash line with 37 RBIs.

Horwitz, who had four stolen bases in the regular season, has equaled that number in 12 AFL games. The secret?

“Just getting some good reads, good jumps, good help from the coaches,” he said.

In the fourth inning Wednesday, Horwitz swiped second and third base during back-to-back at-bats, showcasing those good reads by sliding in both times without a throw.

Overall, Horwitz has somewhat flown under the radar. Selected by Toronto in the 24th round of the 2019 Draft out of Radford University, the 23-year-old has just 16 plate appearances at the Double-A level and is not ranked among the Top 30 Blue Jays prospects.

During his time with the Solar Sox, he has been a sponge for information.

“The guys next to me are the ones that help the most; they’re some of the best players I’ve ever played with,” Horwitz said. “They’re going to be in the big leagues [sometime] soon, so we like to pick each others' brains and help each other out as much as we can.”

Meanwhile, the excitement around Mesa catcher -- and No. 1 Toronto prospect -- Gabriel Moreno builds with every line drive that he peppers during the Fall League.

Moreno, MLB's No. 32 prospect, went 1-for-2 with a blistering double, adding a pair of walks and two RBIs in the victory, raising his OPS to 1.077 -- fourth in the league -- through 11 games.

In 32 games for Double-A New Hampshire this season, Moreno posted a slash line of .373/.441/.651 with 18 extra-base hits and 45 RBIs. But injuries, specifically to his thumb, limited him to 37 games all year. But he has been front and center for a potent Solar Sox squad topping the AFL with a whopping nine runs per game average.